Workplace Navigator: After a Breakup, Breaking the News at the Office
Question: My boyfriend of six years, whom I’ve lived with for more than four years, recently ended our relationship and asked me to move out. He gave me a few months to purchase another home and move, so we’re living together still. The worst part is that we work in the same department and sit within earshot of one another.
Thanks to telecommuting, we are both in the office at the same time only once a week. The only person I’ve told about this situation so far is my boss, but I’m concerned about how, if and when I can inform other colleagues and office friends that the relationship ended without getting myself in trouble.
I’m connected on social media with half the office, so even if I don’t announce it, people will figure out we split up, unless I deliberately hide it, which I don’t think is a good long-term solution. Can I change my social media status to “single” and then tell people the truth if they ask? I imagine “that jerk dumped me and kicked me out, but here’s a pic of my new house” might be too much? Also, should I notify HR of this breakup to protect myself? My ex is in management and I’m not, so I fear he might have some influence that could be used to jeopardize my employment. I don’t report to him; we report to different bosses.
Answer: I’d say the first move to make is into a place of your own with a short-term lease. On everything else, proceed with extreme caution.
See what your employee handbook says about romance at work. Employment attorney Carla Murphy of Duane Morris notes that some companies require employees to give HR a heads-up when a relationship begins or ends.
If your company is one with a kiss-and-tell policy — or if your ex threatens or does anything to sabotage, harass or retaliate against you, or you sincerely fear he will — you need to go to HR. Otherwise, I see no need to involve them until you update your contact information.
Aside from those two contingencies, treat this situation as “need to know” and let word travel in its own time while your raw feelings heal. There’s probably no harm in having told your boss, in case your personal stress starts to affect your performance, but do what you can to keep it from reaching that point, including using paid time off to hit the reset button. And of course you should be able to lean on your closest work friends — but ask them to help you keep any venting sessions offline and off the clock.
After-hours pot-shots, whether over fro-yo or Facebook, can have professional recoil, so tighten up those privacy settings and boost your personal firewall. How long should you keep your broken heart under wraps? Until you no longer feel the urge to let everyone know what happened. Yes, he did you wrong, but you don’t want to do yourself wrong-er.
Q: I work in a large organization where I have some personnel responsibilities. Two men in my office recently received job offers from other organizations. My boss offered them more money to stay, which they accepted.
Two women work in the same position as the men. They receive the same salary the men did before the raises. When trying to hire for this position in the past, I learned that our organization is generally not competitive at this salary, anyway, so I suggested we increase the standard pay for this position. My boss’ response was, “If (employees) want more money, they need to go and get another job offer.” This was not a satisfying answer, since all four are still going to be doing equivalent work. Is this a common workplace practice? I also wonder whether women are less likely to engage in this type of “fishing” and thus will continue to fall behind their male counterparts salary-wise.
A: The Society for Human Resource Management recently advised hiring managers to expect to see more candidates who, rather than seeking jobs, are seeking leverage to win more pay from their current employers. Not only does this trolling for raise bait waste hiring managers’ time, but employees who are “won back” with a counter-offer are still more likely to leave the employer within the year, SHRM noted. And replacements for those lost workers will come from an ever-shrinking pool of desirable candidates, at a higher cost.
So your employer’s “bring us an offer” strategy is a risky one for talent retention and cost effectiveness.
And your employer may have a lot of explaining to do if it comes to light that it’s paying the men in a given position significantly more than their female counterparts — or if, for example, management shows male hagglers the money but shows women the door.
That’s not so far-fetched a scenario. Studies have determined that even when women use the same negotiating tactics as men, they’re likely to face a higher “social cost” — and, by extension, a professional cost — for doing so. That’s why the American Association of University Women, in its nationwide Work Smart and Start Smart salary negotiation workshops, generally recommends collaborative over competitive negotiation.
Deepti Gudipati, AAUW’s vice president of member leadership programs, says a female worker with a competing offer can present it in a collaborative manner in this way: “I’ve been offered this opportunity, but I really enjoy my current role and value working for our company. I’d like to talk about how I can stay here.”
Again, of course, opening this conversation poses risks: that she’ll be invited to leave — or that she’ll start wondering why she should bother staying.